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Your ride cymbal is one of the most important pieces of your drum kit next to your hi-hats, especially for rock drumming.
Within rock music, you need a powerful ride that can be heard through all the heavy music, and it should be versatile enough to handle various song styles within the genre.
In this guide, I’m going to give you my top suggestions for ride cymbals that work well for rock drumming. I’ll compare them according to sound quality, versatility, durability, build quality, and value.
After reading through all these suggestions, you should have a good idea of the types of cymbals that work best for rock drummers.
- What are the Best Rock Ride Cymbals?
- How I Tested and Selected the Best Rock Ride Cymbals
- In-Depth Rock Ride Cymbal Reviews
- Rock Ride Cymbal Buying Guide
- Features to Look Out for in Rock Ride Cymbals
- Rock Ride Cymbal FAQs
What are the Best Rock Ride Cymbals?
How I Tested and Selected the Best Rock Ride Cymbals
I’m a metal/rock drummer at heart. It’s my favorite style of music. Over time, I’ve been able to learn what kind of sounds work best for the style.
When it comes to ride cymbals, thick and heavy cymbals tend to work best, so those were the kinds I tested for this list. They deliver the power, clarity, and cutting projection needed to make a bold impact on rock drumming.
When choosing the ride cymbals, I looked at their sound quality, versatility, dynamic range, and overall build quality.
I’ve identified ride cymbals known for their defined stick articulation, clear bell tones, and the ability to cut through the amplified sound of a rock band.
I also tested a few budget options so that I could recommend a good ride to beginners.
In-Depth Rock Ride Cymbal Reviews
The 21-inch K Sweet Ride is one of the most popular cymbals in Zildjian’s product lineup apart from a few options in their K Custom line. It’s a fantastic professional ride cymbal that can be used in a multitude of settings.
Versatility is the main thing I like about this ride. In all the rock and metal recording sessions I’ve done, I find the studio engineers tend to love this cymbal.
The overall tone it produces is dark and complex, but it has a very clear stick definition. Every note that you play on the surface is articulate, so you can hear your ride strokes through a mix of heavy instruments.
The ride has a heavy washing sound when you play it on the shoulder, making this ride excellent to crash on as well. You can lay into it when playing heavy choruses, and the sound will fill the room easily.
The bell is a lot brighter than the rest of the cymbal, and it cuts through a mix quite nicely. You can play driving grooves with it, and they’ll sound punchy.
Overall, this is a fantastic all-purpose ride cymbal. It’s a good option for drummers who may play a rock gig on Friday and a jazz gig on Saturday.
It’s one of those ride cymbals that everyone wants to buy after hearing it, no matter what style of music they play. It just helps that it works amazingly in rock setups.
Zildjian cymbals have always been good rock drumming options, and this ride carries that trend on.
- Very versatile
- Excellent wash when crashed on the shoulder
- Great stick definition
- Dark tones that are livelier than ones from other dark ride cymbals
- Not a good option for drummers who love bright cymbals
The Paiste 2002 line was famously used by John Bonham for most of his time with Led Zeppelin. When a cymbal gets used by the best rock drummer of all time, you just know that it’s going to work well for rock music.
I knew the 2002 series ride cymbal was loud, but I didn’t expect it to be so loud and present when I played it. It truly lit up the room, making it perfect for heavy music.
I love the sounds this ride cymbal offers. It has a bright and cutting tone; yet it’s still warm, pleasant, and highly musical.
This 22-inch version is an amazing option to consider. It’s large enough to sound huge when you play it, but it’s also small enough to keep a good sense of versatility. It’s not as versatile as the K Sweet ride, but it’s versatile enough to work well in various rock settings.
The standout feature of this cymbal is its bell. The bell has an incredibly bright and cutting tone, and it sounds very powerful when I play it within grooves.
You get a clear and defined ping sound when playing the surface, but it also has a good amount of wash underneath it. You can get clear tones when hitting it softly, but you’ll get washier tones when you hit the surface harder.
The ride sounds huge when you crash on it due to the cymbal being on the heavier sound. This allows you to play massive grooves when crashing on the ride.
- Strong bell sound
- Bright yet washy tones
- Very loud
- Famous for being a good rock ride cymbal
- No cons relating to rock drumming
The Zildjian A Custom Ping Ride is an excellent option to consider if you need something with extensive stick definition. It’s called the Ping ride, as it has some of the brightest pinging sounds out of most of Zildjian’s ride cymbals.
This is an incredibly bright and cutting cymbal, and I found it to be an excellent option for incorporating into rock grooves and fills.
The bell also has a huge tone that cuts very sharply. This is the kind of ride cymbal you want when playing heavier rock music that involves a lot of bell grooves in bridges and choruses. Playing patterns between the surface and the bell will always give you a loud and punchy sound.
It didn’t sound too great when I crashed on it, as the cymbal is really heavy. So, you shouldn’t get this ride if you’re looking for something to crash on as well.
It’s best suited as a ride that you position low in your setup and then have multiple crashes set up around it to use.
The final thing to mention is that it has a brilliant finish that makes it look very shiny in your setup. All of Zildjian’s A Custom cymbals have this effect, and the brilliant finishes also add to their bright tones.
- Extremely clear stick definition
- Very bright tones
- Will always be heard cutting through a dense mix
- May be too bright for some drummers
The Meinl Classics Custom Dual Ride is a good option to consider if you don’t want to pay a high price for a top-tier cymbal but still want something that sounds good enough to use for pro gigs and sessions.
It’s an excellent intermediate ride cymbal that has some unique tones and characteristics compared to the other rides that I’ve suggested.
The edges give the cymbal a bit of brightness and spark, while the black center gives it dark and biting tones.
This combination gives this ride cymbal an overall dark and washy tone that is very lively. It also has a hint of aggression, which is what makes it such a good rock drumming option.
The bell has the same dark and warm tone as the center part, so that tends to blend within a mix instead of cutting through it. However, it’s still very loud.
I found the cymbal’s medium weight provided a balanced response, allowing for a pronounced stick definition on the bow, which is crucial for driving rock rhythms.
Its medium weight means this ride also sounds amazing when you crash on it, which is something that you can’t say for many ride cymbals with the same price tag. That’s another reason why it’s a great option for rock drummers.
- Affordable cymbal that can be used in professional rock settings
- Powerful tones that are trashy and vibrant
- Excellent stick attack
- Great crashability
- Not as dynamically responsive as higher-quality B20 ride cymbals
The Paiste PST 7 Heavy Ride Cymbal is a decent option to consider if you’re looking for something as affordable as possible. Cheap ride cymbals don’t sound amazing, but Paiste’s PST 7 cymbals are some of the most affordable cymbals that have musical tones.
The overall tone of this ride cymbal is very bright and lively, making it ideal for rock drumming.
It will cut through a mix with ease, and you can play the shoulder quite hard to get a surprisingly good crashing sound.
The standout part of the ride is the bell. While the rest of the ride cymbal sounds like what you’d expect an affordable ride to sound like, the bell sounds more resemblant to what you get with much higher-quality cymbals.
The downside of this ride is that it doesn’t hold up too well in professional settings. It’s more of an option for newer drummers who want something better than the brass ride that may have come with their first drum kit.
- Incredibly affordable
- Excellent crashing sounds
- Very loud bell tones
- Only a good option for beginner drummers
Rock Ride Cymbal Buying Guide
When looking for a ride cymbal for rock music, you need to make sure that you’re getting one with very specific sound qualities and build features.
There are certain cymbal qualities that don’t work well in heavy musical settings, and rides with those can often get lost within a mix when you’re playing live or recording.
Here are all of those features to tick off when looking for a rock ride.
Features to Look Out for in Rock Ride Cymbals
Sound quality is always the most important aspect to consider when buying a cymbal. When it comes to rock drumming, you need a ride cymbal that fits well within a band context.
Rock bands have guitars that play distorted melodies that are loud and punchy, so you need to have a ride cymbal that can keep up with that.
The best qualities to look for in cymbals for rock are brightness and clarity. You can never go wrong with a ride cymbal that is high-pitched and articulate.
However, some rock drummers love using darker and more complex ride cymbals, so those can work as well. You just need to make sure that the dark ride cymbal you’re getting has enough stick definition for all your strokes to be heard within a mix.
It’s best to steer clear of dry cymbals when looking for rock drumming options. They don’t have a lot of sustain, so their sounds disappear very quickly in rock band setups.
Rock music is loud and heavy, so you’re going to find yourself playing your ride cymbal much harder than you would be playing it at a jazz gig. This makes durability an important factor when getting a ride cymbal for rock.
The best way to measure durability is by checking the weight of the cymbals. It’s ideal to get a ride cymbal that has a medium or heavy weight. You’ll also get more volume with a heavier ride.
If you get a thin ride, it won’t be as loud, but it also won’t have the stick definition that you need for rock music.
Thin ride cymbals are better options for jazz and worship music, whereas medium and heavy rides always work better for rock drumming. Heavier rides are also more durable when you play them hard for extended periods.
The ride bell is another very important aspect to consider when choosing a ride cymbal. You want to get something that is bright and cutting so that it can compete with all the heavy instrumentation.
Some ride cymbals have bright sounds when playing the surface but dark and smooth sounds when playing the bell. It’s better to have a bright bell with explosive tones.
Whenever you’re looking to buy a ride cymbal, always make sure to listen to how the bell sounds when you’re checking out demos.
You’re going to be using the body of the stick to play that bell in rock drumming, so make sure that there are powerful tones coming out when it’s played.
The final feature to consider when choosing a rock ride is crashability. Some ride cymbals can be struck on the edges to get crash sounds, while others sound very bad when you do that.
It’s not necessary to have a crashable ride for rock music, but it can be very useful. The amount of crashability you need will depend on what other cymbals you have in your drum kit setup.
If you have enough crash cymbals to have varied tones when crash-riding, then you don’t need to have a ride cymbal that can be crashed.
If you don’t have many crash cymbals in your setup, then I’d suggest getting a ride cymbal with excellent crashability.
Another thing to note here is that you’ll get a much larger sound when crashing on a ride compared to a standard crash cymbal. That can help you play big-sounding grooves in rock music.
Rock Ride Cymbal FAQs
What is the Best Size for a Ride Cymbal?
The most commonly used ride cymbal size is 20”. However, there is no definite answer for which size is the best. Ride cymbals range from 20” to 24”, and you get washier sounds as the size increases.
If you want great articulation, it’s better to get a smaller ride cymbal. If you want extended washiness and volume, it’s better to get a larger ride cymbal.
What Cymbal Qualities are Best for Rock Drumming?
The cymbals that tend to work the best in rock music are bright and explosive. Cymbals with bright tones can be heard over all the heavy instrumentation. It’s referred to as cutting through the mix when you can hear them clearly in that setting.
How Do You Choose a Ride Cymbal?
The best way to choose a ride cymbal is to listen to it being played and decide if you like the tone or not. Listen to several options to compare them, and then choose the one that you like the most.
You just need to factor in the style of music that you play on the drums. Some ride cymbals work better than others for certain styles of music.